2011 started with a big bang this weekend as I won my first race of the season at the inaugural Ironman 70.3 San Juan!
With an incredible men’s field including 2x Ironman World Champion Chris McCormack, 5x Ironman champion Luke Mckenzie and a slew of other champions I knew the season kick off was going to be a true challenge. I spent the last 8 weeks in Tucson preparing for 2011 in what turned out to be an unbelievable training block. With my debut Ironman race in Texas coming up the focus of my preseason was volume. I knew that the higher volume coming into San Juan would leave me strong but I was not sure if I had tuned my speed enough for a 70.3 win. With this in mind my coach Cliff and I decided on a race strategy to play to that strength, set a strong pace early and aim to be the last man standing!
Race day conditions were fantastic and the 79 degree water called for no wetsuits. As the race began I was able to quickly get to the front of the swim and exited the water in the lead with Dave Kahn, one of triathlon’s most accomplished swimmers. Coming out of the water there was a 600 meter run to transition and while a small part of the race, it turn out to have an important role in the outcome. With the lead group of swimmers right on my feet exiting the water I pushed the pace on the run and opened up a small gap starting the bike.
I knew I had to keep the pace fast to avoid a large pack forming behind me on the flat bike course. With a nice tailwind I pushed it upfront at 30 mph and opened up a 30 second gap over the six man chase pack which included McKenzie and McCormack. McKenzie quickly showcased his bike fitness by shattering his pack about 20 miles in the bike and bridging up to me at mile 30. I was really excited to see him dismantle the group, leaving everyone to battle the headwind on their own but I wasn’t super pumped to see him ride by me! While I was confident in my run fitness I didn’t want to let McKenzie slip away too quickly. As he passed I had flashbacks to last year’s Texas 70.3 battle with former 70.3 World Champ Terenzo Bozzone. In Texas I gave up 45 seconds to Bozzone over the last 10 miles of the bike only to lose the race by 25 seconds! With this in mind I stayed with McKenzie until mile 42 where I started to fall off the 2:04 bike pace he ultimately posted. I love to be the one pushing the pace but I knew in this case I needed to keep under control going into the run. I did lose some time but my 2:05 bike split put me into transition only a minute behind McKenzie.
I hit the run course and while I still had alot of work to do I felt in control and confident with my ability to win on the run. There was a time in my racing career where if I didn’t come off the bike in the lead I wouldn’t have even a chance of winning. In fact with talking to my sister Katie after the race she mentioned that our mom (who was following the race online) was very worried because I didn’t get off the bike in first. Katie reminded her I still had 13 miles to run…I guess she tends to forget I’m not just a swimmer anymore…look at me mom I can run!
Anyway, back to the story. Since it was the first race of the season I didn’t want to push the limits of my fitness and tried to build into the run gradually. I seemed to fall into a groove pretty quickly and by mile three I had caught McKenzie and taken the lead. I was excited to be back in front and kept a steady pace going through the first turn around. It wasn’t until shortly after the turnaround that I noticed Paul Amey (a deadly runner) lighting up the run course behind me! Oh boy, I suddenly realized that this battle was far from over. I picked up the pace on the way back into town and going into the second lap I still had over two minutes on Amey. I kept on my pace using that Ironman racing strength I’ve been developing and eventually increased my lead on the fleet footed Amey.
I came back into town very exited to be so close to my first victory of 2011. The energy from the crowd was unbelievable! While I have always been one to race all the way to the finishline I’ve come to realize that in this sport you never know when the next win will come. So as a approached the finish I took the time to enjoy my run down the chute and the hard earned victory.
There is definitely more to tell you about, but I think this post has kept you away from more important tasks for long enough. Its a new year with a new website so I will make sure that I keep it up to date with plenty of posts. In fact stay tuned for the next post later this week as I discuss how I approached my race nutriton and other early season “extras” we sometimes forget about…
Talk to you then!